As much as I am a control freak, I’m learning some tough lessons in life this year. John and I were pet sitting our friend’s two cats, including the one prized savannah kitten. Oscar was a real jewel; I mean aside from his striking ocelot-like coat, he had a wonderful personality for a cat. In fact, he behaved more like a dog. At nine months, he relished the company of people. He cuddled, he walked well on a leash, and they took him everywhere.
Recently, they had noticed he was acting calmer, less rambunctious. They thought maybe he had crossed that threshold from kiddie to adolescence. But then he grew increasingly lethargic and he ran a fever. They took him to the vet on Monday; she thought he had just an infection. She put him on Zithromax. We cat sat starting on Tuesday. He ate, seemed to play a bit, then on Thursday, he was noticeably weak and his breathing was labored. We took him to the emergency vet that night. On Friday morning, I went to transfer him out of the emergency vet and into a specialist’s care. I spoke in person with the vet at 7:40. Oscar was doing better. I went next door to fill out paperwork at the specialist’s office and at 8:15, he was gone.
Honestly, I hadn’t spent that much time with Oscar, but upon hearing the news, I just lost it. Pyothorax they say. Shock, confusion, self-doubt, pity… Our friend is the one with stage IV cancer. He is devastated. Oscar was his best pet ever, his best friend, the one thing he loved most in this world. And he’s gone now.
It’s weird. I think of how lucky Oscar was to be in a loving home, to be taken care of in his short nine months. So many people in the world never experience that luxury. Certainly so many animals never experience that luxury. And yet, when I think of his lifeless body lying there on the examination table, I ache for his pain and suffering. I wish he could have told us there was something seriously wrong. I suppose all this time, despite being a veteran pet owner, I’ve been naive. I mean, what could possibly be wrong with indoor pets? They have shelter, protection, food, love… sure, my dog might limp around (as in Remy’s case) some days, or she might appear a little sluggish. Big deal– humans have our sick days too. But I guess what I’m learning is that animals are not like humans. They hide their weaknesses until they can hide them no longer. Poor Oscar. He tried to hang on, but we failed him. As guardians of our animals, we try to be vigilant but sometimes we tell ourselves we’re overreacting and then shit just happens. They say pyothorax can be caused by a simple bite or puncture to the body. Sometimes by the time the lethargy is apparent, the external wound has already healed but inside the infection grows. The vet removed 100+ mL of pus from his pleural space. They found no wound on the exterior. Our friends never noticed any blood. I don’t know. It’s tough just not knowing how the hell he got pyothorax.
I read that dogs too can get pyothorax, usually from breathing in some plant debris through the nose that then gets into the chest cavity and causes an infection. Wtf? Freak accidents. Sometimes life really is just a goddamn a roll of the dice.